District of Columbia fire fighters continue to be unhappy with the department’s rebranding efforts.
This week a fire lieutenant was placed on administrative leave for wearing the wrong logo on his jacket.
The lieutenant was at the Fire Training Academy with other members of his crew practicing for an upcoming certification test when a deputy chief asked him to remove his overcoat. The fire lieutenant said all he wanted to do was stay warm.
This is the fourth change to the uniform policy since an announcement was made last spring and the changes have resulted in fire fighters paying for new clothing every 2 ½ months. Fire fighters said the department needs to pay for the protective clothing since it is the chief who wants the uniform change.
This latest incident is one of many concerns DC fire fighters have about the direction of the fire department.
Over the past year, Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe has supported a number of controversial initiatives, including a pilot program that dispatched DC fire fighters in high crime neighborhoods late at night during the summer months. Ellerbe said fire fighters helped to reduce crime on neighborhood corners making for “good witnesses.” Fire fighters argued the program blurred the lines of public safety and that they aren’t trained for crime fighting.
The fire chief is also advocating a new shift plan that has not been received well with the fire department.
The plan, known as a 3-3-3 work schedule, would call for fire fighters to work three 12-hour days, followed by three 12-hour nights, followed by three days off. The plan would increase work hours, but not pay. Fire fighters said the shift will take a physical toll and that their cognitive skills would be diminished. Fire fighters also say that the shift change would cost the City more money because of DC’s no residency requirement — many fire fighters would have to travel an extended period of time to get to work. In advance of the proposed shift change, the fire department is trying to fight off attrition levels. Some 40 paramedics are rumored to have left the department due to the changes. Fire fighters fear the shift change could diminish the department’s staffing by over 400 positions.
Fire fighters describe Ellerbe as too focused on peripheral issues and ignoring more serious and larger issues that have a direct impact on fire fighter safety — such as fire apparatus falling into disrepair with no reserve in place.
Just yesterday, news photographers caught painters painting over DCFD on the bay doors at Engine Co. 7.
For the DCFD logo, Ellerbe said he wants to make EMS more prominent in the banner. He is now requiring fire fighters to wear uniforms, T-shirts and hats that bear FEMS (Fire and Emergency Medical Services). In addition, FEMS would apply to the seal.
What do you think? Does placing the fire lieutenant on administrative leave for wearing the wrong logo go too far? What do you think about the shift change?
Is this leadership style appropriate for the Nation’s Capital, for that matter any major metropolitan fire department?